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Thursday, 3 October 1974
Page: 1646

Senator DEVITT - I would like to ask a question of the Minister for the Media which follows a question asked yesterday by Senator Guilfoyle concerning harassment of people by journalists and their associates in looking for news stories. My question arises from observations which have been made to me by a number of my associates, particularly in the Labor movement. I would like to know whether the Minister, in view of the serious nature of this situation, is able to provide the Senate with any further information concerning this incident and perhaps incidents of a similar kind in other areas?

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) - I am not in a position to provide the Senate with information other than that which I gave yesterday. The Acting General Manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Dr Semmler, was reported in the Press this morning as having said that Press reports of the incident had suggested that the television crew had harassed Mrs Petrov. He went on to say according to the report that the account given by the ABC team does not tally with the Press report in all particulars. He has assured me that he has called for a detailed report on the matter. Meanwhile I assure the honourable senator that in conformity with my undertaking to the Senate yesterday I have already written to the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and asked him to ensure that this matter is discussed and debated by all members of the Commission at its earliest meeting. Further, my colleague the Attorney-General has raised this subject with me and I know that he will be able to supplement the remarks I have just made.

Senator MURPHY - Mr President,the Senate may be interested to know the information I have received in relation to the matter concerning Mrs Petrov. My information is that after Mrs Petrov had taken refuge at the East Bentleigh police station where she was being besieged by Press and television personnel, she returned to her home- this was the day before yesterdayand there received a letter together with a bunch of flowers. The letter is in these terms:

I'm sorry that you were upset by the events of this morning- it was not my intention to cause you any more personal grief or disturbance but I want you to know thatIama tenacious journalist and will not give up easily when I see the prospect of a good story in front of me. I know you have a right to privacy and I understand the personal difficulties in your life at the moment, but you must also understand the public interest there is in your story and why that motivates me to keep on trying.

I remind you again of what I said this morning that one way or the other I am determined to get a story out of the fact that your whereabouts are now known. It is not my intention under any circumstances' to tell our audience either the name you now assume or your address. But even if you do not agree to talk to me there are a number of ways we can still tell the story without disclosing these facts.

I told you this morning of some ways this can be done. We can continue to follow you or to film your house from the street and to speak to neighbours, etc, etc.

In view of the disturbance this caused this morning it is a course of action I am not happy to embark upon. But it is a course of action I will most definitely take if that is the only way I can get the story. Can 1 again ask you to agree to give me a short interview? Our program has an audience of one and half million throughout Australia- even if you only appear to say that you wish to be left alone and that the events that made you a figure of public interest arc now 20 years in the past- that would suffice for our purposes. Can I also suggest that such an interview on a national TV program would go a long way to defusing the continual pressures you face from the media to make such a statement- and the harassment and invasion of privacy you will continue to face in the absence of such a statement?

Yours sincerely Allan Hogan

Mr President,I do not think that needs very much comment from me. That is the information I have.

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